Now that the school year has started again for most of us, it's time to get organized and start the semester off right. School can be really stressful and overwhelming, but I feel much better when I have everything planned out and organized. Here are some tips and tricks that I have found to be helpful when taking online classes. Some of these tips could also be helpful for classes on campus too. Although I'm not a pro, these tips have all seemed to help me a lot in my first two years of college, and I’ve taken several online classes!
1. Get up early and get started.
By taking online classes, it’s really easy to tell yourself that you don’t really have to get up because you can do the work whenever, but that’s not a good plan. I have found that it’s best to stay on a schedule where I get up at a decent time and start on my work early. Then, I have enough time to get my work done during the day and time to rest at night.
2. Print off the syllabus.
Sometimes in a regular class, professors will hand out a copy of the syllabus, but in an online class it will be posted online. I have found that it is much easier to take a few minutes to print it off, read through it, and highlight some of the important parts so you can easily find them later on. The syllabus will be online for the whole semester, but it’s nice to have a copy of your own to access quicker. Everything you need to know about the semester (what you will learn, what books you need, etc.) will be in the syllabus.
3. Make a list of assignments.
If a lists of assignments isn’t mapped out in the syllabus, I suggest making your own. I like to have a list of my assignments typed with the due dates next to them, to make sure I turn everything in on time; I like being able to physically mark off the things I have completed too.
4. Have separate folders for each class.
I know with online classes you may not have many papers to keep, but I still like to have a folder for each class to keep things in. Having a separate folder allows you to easily access whatever you are looking for and keeps everything much more organized. You'll be so organized that you'll want to give yourself a high five, or a "self five".
5. Set aside time to do your work.
With online classes, you must set aside a certain time of day to do your work. If you think that you’ll do the work whenever you have free time, you may never get the assignments done. You may have to say "not today" to some of the things you want to do, until you get your assignments done. Like I said for #1, I like to wake up early and get my work done first.
6. Use a planner.
Even though I have my list of assignments and syllabus, I like to keep a calendar/planner to write down when major assignments/papers are due or when exams are due. A planner can also help you keep track of any other important things you may need to do (appointments, holidays, work schedules, etc.).
7. Make To-Do lists.
Each day, I like to make a To-Do list of the things I need to get done for the day. Typically, I’ll write the each of my classes down and then list the assignments I need to work on for each class that day; I also like to include the due dates next to it, so I’ll know which items are more important. Sometimes when I see my to-do list, I think "it is unbelievable how much I hate you", "you" being school and my never ending list of things to do.
8. Participate in discussions.
In most of the online classes I’ve been in, there are graded discussions. However, the discussions are worth very little points oftentimes, so many people choose not to do them. Whether they are worth points or not, I think it’s a good idea to participate in discussions online because you can learn more about the topics being studied from your classmates, which could help you out on projects or exams.
9. Ask questions.
When taking online classes, it can be difficult to understand concepts or even directions sometimes since you are reading them instead of hearing them explained in person. It is very important to ask questions and not to give up, even when it's stressful and frustrating.
10. Take breaks.
It’s easy for me to wake up and get started on homework, but then I get so busy trying to get things done that I forget to take breaks. If you don’t stop to take a break you’ll get burnt out very quickly and won’t get much done. Remember to take breaks during your homework time, but also remember to get back to work and don’t procrastinate!
11. Take organized notes.
Make sure your notes are easy to read and organized nicely so the information will actually be helpful when you go back to read your notes. Also, if you are in several online classes, it’s important to keep the notes for each of your classes separate.
I hope these tips help you in your online classes as much as they've helped me. Have a great semester!